The Things We Don’t Say

It’s funny, if not tragic, that we spent much of the first part of our lives mastering the art of speech only to become adults and pretty much become rubbish at it again. Typically, when you babble your first words, your parents stumble for the camera (or camcorder back in the day) in excitement at this developmental milestone. Then, as you get older, you realise language actually only makes one part of what is this massive jigsaw puzzle called communication. So yes, you can speak – but have you fully mastered the art of communication? Probably not.

There are a lot of things people say in ways other than speaking that we have to learn to be mindful of. I say ‘learn’ because it doesn’t always come naturally to read body language or apply emotional intelligence to a situation. These are things most of us learn over time and build like muscle. It doesn’t mean it’s easy though since body language and speech can at times conflict meaning you may have to rely on other factors to make an ultimate judgment call.

Eating your words

One significant thing that is a constant challenge, for me personally anyway, is saying how I truly feel to others. I think because when you’re hyper aware of how others feel; you worry that your words may negatively impact the people you want to share them with.  And let’s be honest, the worst thing is saying words and going on to regret them. It happens way more often than it should but for those of us that like an element of control over situations – such regrets can be annoying because you can’t rewind time to take the words back, can you? Keeping everyone happy starts to feel like this weird juggling match and you can find yourself having to do the mental cost/benefits analysis of the costs of being honest (meaning you feeling happier) vs just repressing your feelings (and keeping everyone else happy.)

It’s no coincidence that there are 100s of films and dramas centered around the breakdown of communication and the problems it can cause. It’s a universal issue – sometimes you can be having a conversation with someone and what you’re saying vs what they’re hearing from you are completely different things. It’s why teaching, in my opinion, is a very underrated profession, because to make sure your instructions are heard clearly, comprehended and even remembered by students is more of an uphill battle than many would think.

Your voice is worth hearing

Being honest about your feelings sometimes is not simply a black & white situation of whether someone is a coward or not. Being able to truly lay your feelings on the table, even for people close to you, can be a challenge and this can be due to several mental blocks you may have.

You may not feel like your voice is worth hearing

Maybe you’ve expressed your views before and nothing changed which was discouraging to you

Or maybe social judgment and its repercussions leave you thinking it’s better off to not ‘kick up a fuss’.

In case you need to hear it – your voice is definitely worth hearing. Obviously, to truly get your point across sometimes you have to formulate a game plan – what is the right moment, place and method to communicate how you feel, for example? People often don’t think about such things when they want to get things off their chest but it’s definitely worth doing so. On a lot of reality TV shows I watch, they’ll often just confront someone over dinner, meaning yes, your true feelings are now on the table, but you’ve also spoiled a perfectly nice dinner – miring it with confusion and anger. That can all be avoided with a bit of simple planning.

And You?

But what about if you’re at the other end? If someone bears their all to you? Well first, of all the last thing they want is an underwhelming response. But yes, sometimes you won’t know how to appropriately react straight away so it’s worth asking them for some time to respond or just offering a listening ear, particularly if the confrontation has a personal aspect to it regarding you; i.e. ‘I don’t feel you do xx properly’ or ‘You never seem supportive of my ambitions’. Instead of jumping on the defensive (as instinctive as it may feel), a little bit of empathy can go a long way, a lot of the time it takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable – so acknowledge and be appreciative of that, if anything at all.

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Why not visit my new Medium blog – I’ll be using this blog to delve into more TV and film reviews, as well as explore various themes the things I’m watching cover. Would love to hear your feedback and Medium blog recommendations you have!

Listen, listen carefully

I remember a while back I called a friend of mine to catch up. As we spoke it became apparent she was having a tough time in many ways. After hearing her speak I resorted to giving her advice (from the top of my head) and some tips on how I thought she could deal with her issues moving forward. She then got angry stating to me that my tips were things she had already considered/tried and that she wasn’t seeking my advice. I quickly apologised after and we shortly ended the call, with confusion still hanging in the air on my side.

woman in teal dress shirt sits near wall
What does true listening look like? (Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com)

Although my initial emotion reflex was to get angry and annoyed I later realised my friend had unknowingly taught me a valuable lesson through that interaction. Sometimes, when people pour their hearts out to you, they aren’t looking for resolve or an immediate solution, they just want you to listen. It’s a simple observation and one that feels oh so obvious but yet, something even I have much room for improvement in.

Nowadays in my interactions with people, I find myself wondering what true listening is/ looks like. There’s one thing I can tell you in regards to this.

It involves empathy and seeking to understand the feelings being shared with you. Depending on whether the situation calls for it it may involve; giving advice or rather it may involve a simple hug or show of affection. Following up with questions is always good; it shows you are listening,  interested and have a grasp on what is being relayed to you. ‘How did that make you feel?‘, ‘What can I do to help?‘ or sometimes a ‘thank you for sharing that with me‘ may be called for in the aftermath of the most difficult of confessions.

The first line I write with consideration because there are times when you may not relate to the nature of the problems people you listen to are going through and that’s okay. The worst it means for you is that you can’t say ‘I know what you’re going through, [insert personal story of how you relate here]’. I say this particularly when you come from a different world from the person you talk to.

For example, if a person of colour (POC) meets a white person and the former starts talking about racial discrimination they have faced; as white person from a working-class background it is not suddenly called for you to go ‘I can relate because as someone who grew up on an estate blah blah blah…’ Such things can be done with the sincerest of intentions but are, in my opinion, the wrong course of action to take. Rather, take the opportunity to properly listen to the POC and understand their experience. Use it, if you like, as a learning experience. This applies in regards to numerous oppressed or minority groups you may ever encounter; from travellers to the LGBT+ community. Only when such things are taken into account can dialogue between groups and/ or individuals be effectively done.